The Glitter Buzz: Summer Vacation with JayLee Photography
Grit & Glitter is the weekly podcast dedicated to the power of women’s wrestling, hosted by Harley R. Pageot, Emily Fear, and their team of correspondents known as The Glitterati. “The Glitter Buzz” is a new regular feature here at Bell To Belles where Harley interviews various wrestlers and wrestling media personalities around a different central theme each month. Your theme for June is… summer vacation.
No matter where you live or how much you love your city, one of the greatest thrills of any summer is to take a road trip. Hop in a car with a partner or a couple friends and hit that highway. Here in Toronto that almost always involves “going up north.” Everything north of us is wilderness. Cottage country. I love sitting by a lake somewhere but the ideal road trip hits all the checkmarks. Burgers and milkshakes from a roadside restaurant. Exploring a small town. Photos in front of the world’s largest apple. Windows down and the stereo cranked as you sing along to your favorite Rilo Kiley album. “Some days they last longer than others, but this day by the lake went too fast…”
If you’ve seen any promo photos from any indie wrestlers over the past year, chances are you’ve seen that familiar JL logo stamped in the corner. Seemingly an overnight sensation, Christina and Antoine have become the dynamic duo of indie photography, whether shooting for Beyond Wrestling, CFU, Battle Club Pro, or any myriad of promotions in the northeast. JayLee Photography are one of the hottest things going at the moment. If your favorite hasn’t stepped in front of their lenses yet, it’s surely just a matter of time.
PAGEOT: This is usually my last question but, because I’ve seen how busy your calendar is, I have to ask – what do you have planned for this summer?
CHRISTINA: We have a lot of wrestling planned. It seems that we are busy every weekend, actually. But we also are taking time, I think maybe a week or so, away from wrestling to do a family vacation to Universal Studios with our kids and our friends. We’re all looking very forward to that. We’re just trying to make the most of each day, whether it be wrestling or family-oriented things.
I’m up in Canada so I don’t get to go to any shows, especially right now as we’re still under lockdown, but I’m looking at your calendar and I’m like “This is my dream list.” Black Girl Magik? Paris Is Bumping? These are the shows I want to be at, instead of watching them from a distance.
C: Aww. Well, I mean, hey, at least you get to watch them, right?
That is the plus, for sure.
ANTOINE: I’m enjoying the fact that we’re opening up a little bit better now because the tapings were brutal. It’s good to be back with fans. It’s good to be back in the building at shorter shows. The last few tapings were longer. You missed the fans’ interaction.
Oh, so the promoters are using the empty space, saying “This is great. We can do retakes. We can take our time.”
C: Yeah, it ends up being an all-day thing. We’re used to having live shows that are maybe three hours but tapings are all day. You get there at twelve and you don’t leave until nine o’clock or ten o’clock at night. It’s pretty brutal.
And I’d imagine with fans in attendance… It obviously gives the whole venue a different kind of energy but, from a photography standpoint, you get a glimpse of fans in the background, cheering and applauding, and that’s a whole different thing as well.
C: Yeah! Definitely, ‘cause you know the fans are interested in it and they really enjoy what they see. When it’s no fans, it seems really awkward.
Is wrestling your main priority now? I know you’ve also shot weddings, theater, and track but it seems like wrestling is your big thing now.
A: I would say wrestling is our biggest thing. We still shoot photography like family events but the majority of the weddings we’ve done have been because of wrestling. We shot two wrestlers’ weddings. We shot Terra Calaway’s wedding and Lady Frost’s wedding. We’ve only shot one other wedding outside of wrestling. We still do family photos but wrestling is the only time we work outside of people we’re friends and family with already.
How did you get started in wrestling? Were you just fans showing up at shows with cameras?
A: It’s a funny story regarding how we got started. I’ve been best friends with an individual – he’s lead on a podcast called Big Gold Belt – and he randomly made a Facebook post of live wrestling in northern Virginia. I messaged him and said “Hey, what’s this?” and he was like “Oh, they have an indie wrestling show here.” This is back in 2017 and I’ve never been to an indie wrestling show so I decided to get a ticket. At that time, we were just doing our son’s track photos. I was like “Let me bring a camera here just so I can document some stuff that I’m doing.” We got there and we sat in probably the third or fourth row. And we actually still have those pictures to this day of that first show. When we got home, we thought “This seemed pretty nice, pretty fun” so we brought our camera to the next show, and then the next show, and then the next show, and we kept shooting. We’re starting to get the hang of this, to understand it, and like it. It became more of a fun hobby. Then, around 2018, we started doing ringside for that same show. We just built our way up.
Photography just came about as a hobby. You didn’t go to school for it.
C: No, we did not go to school for photography. It literally just started because I wanted a camera one day to record my son. He was doing track and I just wanted to record him in general because he was growing up. I believe the first camera I had was a T2 and that’s what we were shooting with. We just started working with that and googling other cameras and lenses. It just took off from there.
Why JayLee Photography? That’s not your names.
C: It’s not our names and it’s so funny you say that because I feel like some wrestlers still say “Hey, Jaylee!” like they think it’s my name. laughing It’s not. JayLee is the combination of our kids’ names: Jayden and Hailee. We just combined them together because it was a family thing at first.
So then I guess my big question is: how did you two meet?
C: laughs You want to tell the story?
A: No, you can tell the story.
C: laughs Okay, so… I was best friends with his cousin. I’ve grown up with his cousin since I was a baby, but I never knew about him at all. My cousin was going on a trip to the beach and she was like “Hey, do you want to go?” and I was so adamant that no, I don’t want to go. But she kept convincing me and convincing me until eventually I gave in. I said, “Okay, fine, I’ll go.” And he ended up being on the trip also. In fact, he was the one that was picking everybody up for the trip. That’s basically how we met. We got along really well while we were on the beach trip together and we just kept hanging out.
A: 17 years later.
C: 17 years later, here we are.
You mentioned that you got into indie wrestling in 2017. Have you been WWE fans since you were kids?
A: I grew up a big wrestling fan as a kid. I grew up watching Shawn Michaels. I would even go further back to the old Hulk Hogan era. I was big into wrestling. Me and my friends growing up through middle school/elementary school would meet at a park and have wrestling matches outside. Actually my friend from Big Gold Belt, we used to always wrestle when we were ten or twelve years old. That’s when I was the taller one of the crew. Now I’m the shorter one. I went to WCW Starrcade when it came to D.C. My dad used to always take me to that. I still have big memories of being at the Starrcade in which Kevin Nash came out and they tasered Goldberg. I’ve been a huge wrestling fan growing up throughout the years.
C: For me, my brother actually introduced me to wrestling. Wrestling was always on in the house. He’s six years older than me so literally, since I was a baby, I just remember always seeing wrestling on TV. I just started liking what he was watching. I would be able to identify who was who and it just progressed from there. Even after he stopped watching it for a little bit, I kept watching it. So, yeah, we have both been pretty big wrestling fans for as long as we can remember.
I’m guessing your kids are probably huge fans now too.
C: Our son used to be a wrestling fan. Not so much anymore. But our daughter, for sure, is a wrestling fan. It even came to a point where she was saying she wanted to be a wrestler.
How old is she?
C: She’s seven.
Okay, so she’s still got to wait a little bit. Does she freak out when you’re at home watching a Trish Adora match and then she gets to meet her at a show? Does she lose her mind?
C: Totally freaks out over Trish Adora, over Erica Leigh, over Edith Surreal. She loves these characters. She flips out even more when we’re watching IWTV and there’s a match going on. “Oh my god, it’s my mom and dad!” because she can see us ringside. She loves the whole thing so, when she was able to finally meet Trish Adora, she couldn’t believe it. It was the best day for her.
It feels like you guys have blown up in the last year. I feel like I see your work coming out of every show. What are some tips or advice you would give to people wanting to be the next JayLee Photography?
A: I would say the biggest tip would be to just keep an open mind. Make it fun. Understand that wrestling photography can be a business but, if you treat it like a business, you’re going to burn out very quickly. Make it fun. The talent are just like you. They can be shy. Sometimes it might seem like they don’t want to approach you. Always keep an open mind. Be willing to work with anybody. We’ve never had one time that we didn’t want to work with anybody. No matter if they were the smallest wrestler just starting out in training clothes or a wrestler who’s on Impact Wrestling. We treat everybody the same. We never charge one wrestler one price and another wrestler another price. We make it sure that we treat everybody the same way we want to be treated, which is fair. If I can give anybody any advice, it’s have fun but always be fair with everybody. Folks will respect you and always come back to you if you treat them how you want to be treated.
What are some difficulties about shooting wrestling that someone like me might not realize?
C: For me, the number one thing is lighting. I don’t think fans, or even sometimes promoters, understand that lighting is very, very important. I know some promoters want that dark, cool-looking effect but you have to keep in mind that, from a photographer’s point of view, that’s a nightmare. We need the lighting to take these awesome photos that you want so badly.
A: One of the biggest things of being a wrestling photographer that folks may not know, and this is just for ringside, is you have to be familiar with the wrestlers. A big thing for me is being able to capture certain aspects of their moves. If you have no familiarity with the wrestler and their move set, you end up missing certain moves. Trish Adora has Lariat Tubman. If you have no familiarity with her move set, you being a camera person, you may not have the focus directly on her when she’s going to do that set up. So I would say the one biggest hurdle for me is when I go to a show and I’m not familiar with a wrestler. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly what moves are coming and where they’re going to capture it so it’s on print.
As I said, this is our summer vacation series. When you’re not on the road, when you’re not shooting, what’s a perfect summer day for you?
C: Any time we’re just hanging out with the kids, or family or friends. That’s basically a perfect summer day. When we’re not in the house, we can just be outside barbecuing or out anywhere. Like today, we tried to go to the aquarium. laughs It didn’t work out quite as well but we tried and we still had a good day regardless.
When the kids aren’t in the car, what are you listening to? What are you playing this summer?
C: I think we’re both obsessed with the Silk Sonic song [“Leave The Door Open”] right now. And Bruno Mars. But usually I’m a Metallica person. I love rock music so we’re always blasting rock music in the car. Also we’ve been totally obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack. It gets played in the car all the time. I think the kids are sick of it now.
A: When we do road trips, especially during the summer, the Hamilton soundtrack is probably an hour and 30 minutes altogether, or a little bit longer, so it makes our trip go by. If we play that whole soundtrack twice, by that time, doing a three-hour trip, we’re basically done listening to the album. And it flows really well. It entertains you and then, by the time you’re finished, it’s like “Oh wow, we’re here!”
C: I feel like we just listed three different genres. laughs
I know you’ve already got a busy summer but fall’s around the corner. Do you keep a checklist of wrestlers or promotions you haven’t shot yet but really want to?
C: For wrestlers, we really want to photograph Su Yung. I feel like she’s been on the list for at least a couple years now. She commented on a post we did of her. She’s ready. Let’s shoot. But the thing is, she has to have time in her busy schedule and then we have to also have time in our schedule. Hopefully eventually one day they will line up. As far as shows…
A: When we first started out in wrestling, we had this long bucket list of certain shows we wanted to work. We have actually checked off every show that we wanted to work as of this summer. Beyond was our last big show and we made a trip to Worcester, Massachusetts and we shot ringside. That was our biggest bucket list item. We haven’t really sat down to do any new goals yet. We plan on it pretty soon but, as of right now, we feel as if we’ve completed almost every item that we wanted to do with the exception of shooting portraits of Su Yung.
That’s it. One goal left. We have to make that happen.
C: Well, it doesn’t have to happen immediately. Because then what?
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